Saturday, March 6, 2010

Salman Rushdie

I read this article on the freedom of speech, in the context of MF Hussain "choosing" Qatar (via Abi). It mentions Salman Rushdie (and several others) who've been punished for exercising their right to free speech, and got me thinking about the man who once remarked:
What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.
I first heard about "The Satanic Verses", when I was a school kid. Since the book was promptly banned in India, I picked it up much later, while in grad school in Ann Arbor.

I must confess that I truly enjoyed it.

Parts of the book are probably offensive to some people. Parts of  it, especially where he heads off into tangents are disorienting (like the movie Mulholland Drive).

Significant parts of it, however, are sheer genius.

I remember reading the following lines, and being compelled to pencil them down.
Question: What is the opposite of faith?
Not disbelief. Too final, certain, closed. Itself is a kind of belief.
I also got a chance to see him in person, when he was doing a talk in Ann Arbor. His political views, especially on matters such as freedom of speech, cultural relativism, and state of Islam struck me as very thoughtful.

I sign off, with one more Rushdie quote:
The only people who see the whole picture,' he murmured, 'are the ones who step out of the frame.

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